Category Archives: ACORN

Hot Air

Abbie Hoffman: An Oldie But Goodie

I thought I’d run an old chestnut from my days as a keyboard clacker for The Third City this AM. I’m doing this because I feel lazy as hell and I’ve got about 2300 other things to do. I hope you enjoy this blast from the past.

[Originally published in The Third City, February 2nd, 2010.]

Big Mike: Fight The Power(less)

I knew I was a liberal after watching Bull Connor’s thugs knock the crap out of civil rights protesters in Selma, Alabama in 1963. I was seven years old at the time. I knew I was a rebel after reading Mad magazine a few years later when I was ten. I knew where my sympathies lay after Martin Luther King was bumped off and and West Siders tried to light their shitty ghetto on fire in response. I knew whose side I was on when Chicago cops were fracturing skulls in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel.

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The 1968 Democratic Convention In Chicago

So I’ve known from the earliest age that I’d never, ever want to be part of the bully crowd, the gang with badges and guns and respectability, pillars of the community, the backbone, the bedrock, the silent majority of this holy land. From all I could see, those people could turn into mean bastards in the snap of a finger when, in their fever dreams, they saw niggers, broads, queers, and pinkos plotting to sap and impurify all their precious bodily fluids.

From the age of nine on, I knew that those in power had to be defied, ridiculed and distrusted. For my money, it was better to piss all over their shoes than to shine them. When I was fourteen years old, I found a voice and a face for my nascent philosophy. His name was Abbot Howard Hoffman of Worcester, Massachusetts. The world knew him as Abbie.

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Abbie

He was the fun guy, the sex symbol some said, of the Chicago Eight. The Big Boys in in Washington and Chicago (appropriately enough, led by a couple of Dicks — Nixon and Daley) needed to string some people up for wrecking the Democrats’ bash in ’68 and for saying what pretty much everyone else with a cerebrum knew: that the Vietnam War was nuts. So US Attorneys threw darts at a list of radicals and came up with eight names to persecute and prosecute. Abbie was the star of that cast.

The war, segregation, corporate oligarchies and the rest might have pissed him off, but Abbie rarely lost his mischievous grin. Once, standing before a mass march of some 50,000 anti-war protesters outside the Pentagon, he directed them to marshal all their “psychic energy” to levitate the building. It didn’t work but he gave it a good try. Later, he and some cohorts stood in the visitors’ gallery above the New York Stock Exchange and tossed handfuls of cash on the trading floor, causing a mini riot as people scrambled to grab the fluttering dough.

During the Democratic convention protests, he and Jerry Rubin nominated a pig — whom they’d named Pigasus — for president. The pig lost. I think.

J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI file on Abbie ran to 13,262 pages.

Abbie mixed a joie with his rage. He was my hero. I even gave myself the nickname Abbey (yeah, I inadvertently misspelled it — sue me, I was 14.) I tried to grow my hair out like his — tough to do while trying to remain within the confines of a suburban, Catholic, college prep school appearance code. Had I been able to find an American flag shirt, I’d have worn it; of course, this was before wearing an American flag shirt became a statement for the entirely opposite reason.

When Abbie was found dead of a phenobarbitol overdose (he battled bipolar disorder) I mourned. The rabbi at his funeral said Abbie’s life’s work was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

That’s why some recent news has made my ears turn red. A quartet of little masturbation artists was busted down in New Orleans for impersonating telephone repairmen and sneaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s office. They wanted to tap into her phone system illegally. They say their little prank was justified for moral and ethical reasons. Landrieu’s sin? She supports health care reform.

The four are part of a burgeoning movement of right wing college students who employ capers, hijinks, dirty tricks, entrapment, and guerrilla journalism to fight the forces who are destroying this holy nation. You know, those who push for universal health care, speak out against racism and sexism, and community organizers — terrorists of the worst sort.

You may recall one of the four as the guy who dressed up as a pimp and entered an ACORN office, phony street hooker in tow, looking for a small business grant. The ACORN representative, unwittingly (and suspiciously stupidly), went along with the scam. The right wing world, naturally, saw the isolated incident as a broad indictment of.., um…, I guess community organizations. You know, groups that try to help the little guy, the bastards.

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James O’Keefe And Accomplice

Anyway, the financier behind this homunculus’s campaigns, a wealthy right winger, has compared his work to that of Abbie Hoffman.

Those are fighting words. Look at the mugshots of the four and you’ll see the faces of privilege. They’re well-fed, smug, and awfully pale. They’ve gone to to best schools. They have bright futures in the corporate world — even if they now carry felony raps. They have as much to do with Abbie Hoffman as they do with Moe, Larry and Shemp (who, I recall, also impersonated telephone repairmen in one of their shorts.)

They’re fighting for the bullies of this world, which in my book makes them uber-bullies. They afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable. I hope they enjoy their stay in state prison.

I’m still an Abbie guy, even if hyenas like the New Orleans four try to hijack his legacy.

At the ripe old age of 52, last year, as Barack Obama was being sworn in as 44th President of the United States, I realized I still walked the path with my old idol.

My feelings were mixed as I watched the inauguration. I was giddy that a brown human being had reached the White House. But I was also scared to death that some member of this nation’s racial majority, some lover of status quo, some idolator of guns and badges, certain that pillars of the community and its leaders should have pale skin, would aim a rifle at Obama. If anybody bumps this guy off, I swore to myself, I’m gonna go out with a baseball bat and make some fuckers pay.

It’s what Abbot Hoffman would have thought. Radical? Sure. Unreasonable? Hell no. Thanks Abbie.

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Your Daily Hot Air

Raison D’Etre

Sometimes I wonder why I push this boulder up the mountain on a daily basis. The Pencil isn’t making me rich. Nor have millions bookmarked this site. But, like pizza, the Cubs, and taking naps, writing the Pencil is irresistible for me. I can no sooner stop churning out these screeds than I can abstain from turning the air conditioning down to 70 degrees seconds after The Loved One has dialed it up to 72.

There are rewards in this Sisyphean endeavor. I seem to have attracted a number of very nice, decent, and thoughtful conservative readers. For instance, check the comment by Mari Loosen under yesterday’s “Abortion: It’s A Laff Riot” entry.

Now, Mari and I understand that the only thing we agree upon is the fact the the sun rises in the east, and even that might be open for debate on certain days. No matter. She reads the Pencil, well…, religiously.

But the last thing we’d ever do is call each other names. So this tiny space on the interwebs is our way of standing up for civility in this very uncivil world of political debate.

Satan

We Disagree; Ergo, You’re Satan

I’ll continue to come down as hard as I can on Right Wingers who are unreasonable or destructive. And willful stupidity makes me want to throw tomatoes at those who parade it proudly. But anyone who wants to argue for a rational, heartfelt conservatism is always welcome here.

I’m thankful for everyone who’s a Pencillista.

Bad Guy

Now, then. Let us consider one of those unreasonable, destructive Right Wingers who wallow in willful stupidity.

That would be one James E. O’Keefe, the noted video saboteur and revolutionary Tory.

You may remember him from his appearances on national television in this get-up:

OKeefe

Yeah, O’Keefe’s the upper middle class white boy who disguised himself as an inner city pimp so he might create havoc in an office of ACORN, the international social service agency.

ACORN’s aim was to help poor people, simple as that. But since the folks who ran the org. didn’t run away shrieking whenever anybody used the term “social” to describe it, Cro-Magnons like O’Keefe immediately assumed they were “socialist,” much like the Kenyan-born Manchurian Candidate who’d stolen the office of President of the United States and who was driving them to extremes of lunacy they’d previously managed to keep hidden.

O’Keefe and some equally well-fed female cohort pretended they were a pimp and a streetwalker trying to get ACORN to finance their illegal sex enterprise, their way of showing that community organizations and social service agencies are more interested in destroying the fabric of society than, y’know, helping people. They played their roles as a hidden camera rolled. Then, using misleading edits, they spliced together what they thought was a damning video indictment of all things liberal. Their end goal was the downfall of ACORN.

Social Service

Another Commie, Helping Someone

And guess what: they succeeded.

Repugnican Congressbeings and their spineless Democratic counterparts bought the scam hook, line, and sinker. Federal funding for ACORN was cut off and the ensuing shit-storm of bad pub dried up the agency’s other sources of revenue. Next thing you knew, ACORN was out of biz and poor folks who’d come to rely on them to help in matters of voting rights, housing, safety, health care and other things that come by divine right to upper middle class white punks like O’Keefe could just go straight to hell.

And that wasn’t O’Keefe’s only sin. He was busted along with three henchmen trying to bug Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s office in 2010. He secretly recorded NPR executives. He misrepresented and slandered Planned Parenthood, and more. Overall, his deviousness would make Tricky Dick Nixon’s rat-fuckers envious.

And perhaps worst of all, he now writes for the thankfully-dead Andrew Breitbart’s eponymous online orgy of yellow journalism.

I bring this chucklehead up not for gratuitous purposes, although, I’d be thrilled to eviscerate him for no better reason, but because he has somehow conned a reputable publisher to put out a book of his verbal emesis. Or should I say formerly reputable?

Anyway, most of you know I’m also a bookseller. I peddle ’em at the Book Corner, Bloomington’s only remaining independent book store. Yesterday, I posted a mini-manifesto on the Book Corner’s Facebook page. I thought I’d share it with you here:

A Bookseller Draws A Line In The Sand.

Hello, Book Corner fans, customers, and supporters. This is your loyal and congenial bookseller, Michael G. Glab, more familiarly known as Big Mike.

As you know, I have never quibbled with any customer over her or his choice of reading material. I have happily sold even Bill O’Reilly’s assassination-porn series of books. I’ve always believed that reading is a good thing, regardless of the topic (even tarot stuff and James Patterson novels.)

But I must make a stand here and now. Today, Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, released a book written by James O’Keefe, the self-styled “citizen-journalist” whose ambush methods and “creative” video editing style have resulted in numerous sabotaged careers, the destruction of a national social service agency, and innumerable instances of deception, prevarication, and dissembling designed to confuse participants in the arena of political discourse. The book is entitled Breakthrough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy.

The book, like the man who purportedly wrote it (I am aware of no evidence at this time that he is able to read and write), is dangerous. Therefore, I can not in good conscious sell it to you in the unlikely event that we should stock it.

With all due respect, if you approach me and ask for the book, I will politely request that you take your custom elsewhere. I am certain there is a perfectly good bookstore in Hell that is even now stocking the book.

Happy Reading!
Big Mike
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

You know, business is business and all that, but sometimes a guy just has to follow his conscience.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.” — Fran Lebowitz (h/t to RE Paris)

GOOD RIDDANCE, ANDREW BREITBART

“I’ve never killed a man but I’ve read several obituaries with glee.” — Mark Twain

Andrew Breitbart is dead. The Earth is now a better place.

Like Twain, I don’t care much for gloating when a bad guy dies but in this case, Whoopee!

Gone, Baby, Gone

Breitbart was a character assassin, an amoral ideologue, an agent provocateur, and, well, a dick of the highest order.

Here’s the difference between a warthog like Breitbart and a human being of decency. When Shirley Sherrod heard about his death, she said, “The news of Mr. Breitbart’s death came as a surprise to me when I was informed of it this morning. My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart’s family as they cope during this very difficult time.”

Sherrod: A Gracious Victim

This from a woman whose career serving in government was derailed by a phony-assed, maliciously edited video produced by none other than Mr. Breitbart.

And speaking of phony-assed, maliciously edited videos, it was Breitbart’s airing of the ACORN footage that led to that social service organization’s eventual bankruptcy and demise. Nice work, Andy-baby, pissing on all those folks who need food, housing, and legal services for your own professional advancement.

Naturally, the Republican candidates for president are mourning his passing as though a great public servant is gone from the scene. Rick Santorum calls his death a “huge loss, in my opinion, to our country.” Mitt Romney remembers him as a “loving husband and father.”

“Aw, He Was Such A Nice Guy.”

Reminds me of when any notorious Outfit boss kicked the bucket back in Chicago. No matter that he’d been responsible for corrupting labor unions, forcing the Mob’s way into legitimate businesses, and murdering loan sharks, recalcitrant shopkeepers and potential witnesses, his neighbors would say he was such a nice guy and a real fine family man.

Hey, people, even A. Hitler was kind to his dog Blondi. That doesn’t excuse him for his evil acts.

Anyway, Breitbart — though not Hitler or a capo, but profoundly destructive in his own way — joins such luminaries as J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace, Orval Faubus, Curtis LeMay, and Lee Atwater in the pantheon of dead evil Americans.

It’s irrelevant that he was “a loving husband and father.”

“Welcome To Hell, Andy!”

PAYING THE PIPER

Now that Mayor Mark Kruzan doesn’t have to worry about reelection for a while, he can level with Bloomington voters about the state of the city’s finances.

They ain’t good.

Kasey Husk of the Herald Times reports this morning that Kruzan says there are “dark clouds on the horizon” for us.

Potential Cover Shot For Bloomington’s Annual Financial Report

The reason Kruzan waited until now to drop the bomb on us, apparently, is the potential that voters could have blamed him for the economic mess we’re in. That would have been stupid, of course, but then again no one ever accused the electorate, either here or nationally, of being remarkably brilliant.

Smart Enough To Know We’re Not All That Smart

Hell, an entire major political party is fired up by proud anti-intellectualism. (I won’t even link to that party — you can guess which one I mean.)

So no, the city’s empty pockets aren’t Kruzan’s fault.

But we know where the blame primarily lies — all those clever, conniving, duplicitous investment banking house unindicted felons who played our economy for hundred of billions of dollars in fees and bonuses and left it dry.

Check out Michael Lewis’s book, “Liar’s Poker” for an early snapshot of the unregulated, greenback-worshipping, hyenas that populated Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street money-squeezers back in the mid- and late-80s.

Not a one of those reprobates has ever served a minute in jail. Yet guys like Mark Kruzan have to worry that voters may turn on them because of the sins of Wall Street.

We can only hope there is a hell so that Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and the rest of their aiders and abettors can join Andrew Breitbart in it.

IT’S ALL RELATIVE

With Russia’s presidential election three days away and Vladimir Putin looking like a shoo-in, we’re being inundated by news stories and commentary about what a despot the former KGB spook is. Deep thinkers are howling about how un-democratic the supposedly-now-democratic heart of the former Soviet Union is.
No doubt Putin’s goons have had “meetings” with dissenting journalists, his spies have added a dash of “strychnine” to the soup of neighboring pols or fed polonium pellets to expat whistle blowers, and his PR flacks are hard at work manipulating the minds of Russian couch potatoes.

That’s all true. Plus, Putin is such a charismatic tough guy that when he met the notoriously untraveled George W. Bush, this holy land’s president-at-the-time tumbled into a deep man-crush over him.

Putin Porn

Yesterday, though, I caught another side of the story. Former IU writing professor Erlene Stetson and her husband visit us at the Book Corner nearly every day when they’re in town. Her husband was born in Germany and they keep homes in both countries.

The husband — whose name I never catch because we start talking about world events and history immediately, leaving little time for idle chit-chat and social niceties, so let’s call him Mr. Stetson — started ruminating about Putin and Russia.

“It is amazing,” Mr. Stetson said, “how things have changed in Russia.”

He was talking about the Russia of today vis-a-vis that of such sweethearts as Joseph Stalin and his successors.

Mr. Stetson pointed out that even if the Russian press and TV outlets are manipulated and intimidated now and again, they’re still a hundred-fold freer than the old state media apparatus was under the Communist General Secretaries.

He also says the recent mass protests against Putin and Russian voter fraud would never, ever have been tolerated in the Soviet days.

Russia, 2012

Eastern Europeans of a certain generation view the new Russia in a state of near-awe these days, according to Mr. Stetson. Not that they envy Muscovites and the like, just that the relative relaxation of traditional Russian authoritarianism is so jarring in comparison to the bad old days.

Of course, it’s easy to look good when the object of comparison is a tyranny that, under Stalin, murdered tens of millions of people to maintain discipline, advance ideology, and just for the fun of it.

This reminds me of revisionist historians who decry the so-called Fathers of Our Country for owning slaves and treating women as decorative appendages.

White men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did indeed “own” human beings, including their lovely brides.

“Property”

Viewed through today’s lens, Washington and Jefferson appear to be monsters.

In their own day, though, the framers of the US Constitution were the most progressive thinkers on the face of the Earth. They eschewed divine authority and legislated nobility out of existence. Yes, the only US citizens that counted were white male land-owners.

But that was a hell of a leap forward from previous social set-ups. We’ve been taking leaps in fits and starts ever since.

As the late, astute Molly Ivins once wrote, “It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”

MERCEDES BENZ

“The Lord” and Money — perhaps this should be our national anthem.

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